Capital punishment is currently illegal in 19 states plus the District of Columbia.
During Election 2016, voters in three states showed support for the death penalty:
- California. Voters rejected Proposition 62, which would have repealed the state's death penalty. This was the second time in four years that California voters decided to keep the death penalty on the books.
- In Nebraska, voters overturned an earlier decision by the state legislature to abolish capital punishment. Referendum 426 preserved the death penalty by repealing the legislature’s 2015 motion to abolish capital punishment.
- In Oklahoma, where capital punishment was already legal, voters approved State Question 776, which constitutionalized the death penalty.
Michigan was the first state to outlaw the death penalty, and they did so back in 1846. By 1911, only three other states had followed suit (Maine, Minnesota, and Wisconsin). No other states abolished the practice until 1957.
Since that time, there have been three waves of state bans on capital punishment. Five states acted between 1957 and 1965 (Alaska, Hawaii, Vermont, Iowa, and West Virginia), three more states plus the District of Columbia followed suit between 1973 and 1984 (North Dakota, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island), and seven more joined the list in the past decade (New York, New Jersey, New Mexico, Illinois, Connecticut, Maryland, and Delaware). The Delaware Supreme Court struck down capital punishment as unconstitutional in August 2016.
Four states technically allow the death penalty, but their governors have imposed a moratorium on the practice (Colorado, Pennsylvania, Oregon, and Washington).
Scott Rasmussen’s Number of the Day is published by Ballotpedia. Each weekday, Scott Rasmussen’s Number of the Day explores interesting and newsworthy topics at the intersection of culture, politics, and technology.
Scott Rasmussen is a Senior Fellow for the Study of Self-Governance at the King’s College in New York and an Editor-At-Large for Ballotpedia, the Encyclopedia of American Politics. His most recent book, "Politics Has Failed: America Will Not," was published by the Sutherland Institute in May.To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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